The onboard hardware for SmartSky’s upcoming 4G air-to-ground (ATG) network for business aircraft operators has received its first STC approval, in this case on a Cessna Citation Excel. Avidyne, SmartSky’s avionics manufacturing partner, was awarded the STC by the FAA. SmartSky’s 4G ATG network uses “beam forming” technology to provide high data-transmission rates to aircraft.
“With this pioneering first STC in hand, we expect to receive parts manufacturer approval [PMA] from the FAA shortly,” said Avidyne CEO Dan Schwinn. “PMA is the catalyst for SmartSky’s partners to complete their STC commitments on many other business aircraft, and that then enables customers to install and use the system.”
SmartSky expects these follow-on STCs to begin to be available this summer, which will coincide with the formal service launch of its ATG network coverage in the continental U.S. The company expects to have approximately 200 towers online by midyear, and reports that 40 percent of its ground sites are now online or in the final stages of deployment.
“The recent FAA approval of the SmartSky 4G LTE-based network equipment is a clear indication of the fast pace in which the in-flight connectivity market is evolving,” said Nate Klenke, the modifications sales manager for Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, Nebraska. “We are excited to offer the SmartSky solution to our clients as one of their options for in-flight connectivity.”